The RSPCA is urging members of the public not to dump their unwanted pets over the Christmas period.

Despite being regarded as a nation of animals lovers, more than 700 unwanted pets were abandoned in Britain last year and the charity’s 24-hour national cruelty line received nearly 22,000 calls.

In Wales alone, the RSPCA has already received 26 abandoned animals during the period between 1 and 12 December.

Despite repeated pleas to the public not to dump animals, RSPCA animal centres still struggle to cope with the stream of abandoned pets and unwanted animals brought in over the busy Christmas period.

Kate Jones, RSPCA manager for Wales said: “Christmas should be a time for celebration, but every year we have to deal with animals that are abandoned once the novelty of having a new pet has worn off.

“We hope people will think twice about buying pets as Christmas presents. Everyone must realise how important it is to carefully consider the cost, care and commitment involved in looking after a pet for the rest of its life. It is not a decision to be taken lightly, or on behalf of anyone else.”

The RSPCA estimates that a dog owner can expect to pay up to £9,600 over the lifetime of their pet. These estimates include the cost of feeding, microchipping, neutering, veterinary fees and insurance premiums.

For an animal-friendly Christmas, follow the RSPCA’s top 10 festive tips:

  • Don’t give petsas presents. Taking on a pet is a commitment for life and should never be made on someone else’s behalf.
  • Don’t leave pets at home alone if you go away this Christmas.
  • Think about travel arrangements. Ifyou are taking your pet away with you, make sure it has food, water and exercise during long journeys.
  • Keep your pet in a quiet room, away from loud bangs from crackers and party poppers.
  • Keep Christmas decorations out of reach of pets.
  • Be sensible with Christmas treats. Never give bones as pets could choke on them.
  • Try to stick to your usual care routine as Christmas can be a very unsettling time for pets.
  • Don’t buy your pet toys that can be easily swallowed or choked on.
  • Don’t forget about animals kept outside. Horses, rabbits and pond fish need extra attention at this time of year. Fishponds and horse troughs should be regularly checked in case the water freezes over.
  • Make sure you have details of emergency vets available during the Christmas and New Year period.